Anyone tried laser etching playing cards?

Has anyone experimented with playing cards in a Glowforge? I can’t find any good info on what they’re laminated with, so I’m not completely sure if they’re laser safe, but I’m really wondering if it’s possible to etch standard off the shelf Bicycle playing cards such that the etching can be clearly read without it showing through to the back of the card.


This is just a guess, but I would imagine until the revamped “low power” settings are mad available, this might be difficult.


The person to ask about playing cards would be @joker. He does some amazing work with playing cards! Here’s his website:

I don’t know if he has lasered any, but he should be able to tell you about the materials that are used.


Well, I haven’t lasered any playing cards yet BECAUSE GLOWFORGE WON’T BE AWESOME AND SEND ME A UNIT TO TRY OUT :smiley: I’d guess that you’d definitely be on the very low end of the power scale if you are just trying to get a slight engrave.

Most playing cards are a two-ply paper stock with a black glue in the center and a varnish coating, and I imagine that they would be akin to lasering any other glossy coated paper. As soon as I get my GF I’ll certainly be experimenting with all kinds of card-related things.


Aren’t some playing cards plastic or plastic coated? With the plastic likely being a PVC product?

Yes the plastic ones are PVC based, though you really have to seek that kind of card out. Generally those are advertised as waterproof, or “survival” cards, or for the hardcore poker person (the Bicycle Prestige brand). Almost anything normal you buy in a local store will be paper.


so for the hail mary bets when the dam has broke and the flood is coming but you might yet finish the hand?

For the record you can have the pot if it’s that bad I’m heading to high ground.


For a lot of the games i play i plan to laser the ‘cards’ on to wood, either tiles or on thin wafers.
Gaming is fun but as the explosion in miniature gaming has shown it is also a sensory and even tactile experience these days.

The first game i play to ‘convert’ will be Avalon Hill’s classic ‘Civilisation’


Just found this on Amazon. I might have to buy it to play around with.


Nice! I’m going to order a set.

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So has anyone else been thinking that very fine, subtle marks on cards might be a useful thing for, uh, magic tricks?


I used to be able to tell face cards from non by weight balancing on the tips of my fingers by comparing left hand vs right.


Very cool. Those have gone into my “laser stuff” wishlist. Along with these:


Now I need to find the rest of the polyhedral blank dice so I can engrave custom D&D dice!


Hey @joker! Did you figure out if using laser was at all effective making small batch of playing cards? I ask because I am a fellow game designer and just got my GF. Didn’t think I’d be able to cut out cards until I stumbled on this forum. :thinking:

I have not tried to cut out actual cards themselves, but with some careful templating and using snapmarks I bet you could. I’d probably layout maybe 8 cards at a time, print all the art along with snapmarks and then cut that sheet. The challenge though would be getting the front and back card alignment perfect. Consumer printers just aren’t that precise and I’d expect a mm drift here and there, which would then be compounded a bit by the mm or so the Glowforge may cut. Youd want to create a design that doesn’t rely on absolutely perfect alignment to the card edges (ie avoid a stroke that runs around the edge of the card, as that will be super obviously poor if it’s even off a mm or so.)

It’s doable but with my experience cutting boxes, I’d guess you’d have to allow for a fair amount of waste. If you are doing hundreds of cards with both front and back designs…well that could take a while to get right.

If you want a high quality way to get very limited runs of decks done (like, even just one deck) I’d recommend I get all my prototypes done there and the quality is quite good.